How to Cook Calamari (Amalfi Style)

How to Cook Calamari (Amalfi Style)

I like calamari a lot and as long as we don’t call it squid I bet you do too. However, if you’re anything like me then you don’t make calamari at home as much as you’d like to. That may be because the question of how to cook calamari can be intimidating. I’m hoping to change all that with a few calamari basics and a simple recipe for Slow-Cooked Calamari with Tomatoes and Basil.

In its most familiar forms, Calamari makes regular appearances on red-checkered tablecloths at candle-in-the-Chianti-bottle restaurants where it’s usually offered two ways: deep-fried with red sauce for dipping or tangled between strings of linguine on a Big Night style pasta plate.

How to Cook Calamari at Home

It’s easy to see why home cooks avoid calamari. First, cleaning a whole, fresh calamari is a tedious task that may require a biology major to complete correctly. Even when it’s pre-cleaned by the fishmonger it often comes in a gangly mass that seems too hard to handle without operating instructions. However, look beyond your apprehension and you’ll see an incredibly mild-flavored ingredient that’s as versatile and easy to prepare as chicken. Best of all calamari is inexpensive and sustainable. Now all you need to know is how to cook calamari properly.

I’ll admit calamari does have a rubbery rap that’s not completely undeserved. It can get tough when overcooked. The trick is to either cook it hot and fast or low and slow. If you’re too tentative with the fast method or too impatient with the slow you’ll end up with a plate of warm ABC gum. With choices as plain and simple as these, how can you resist learning how to cook calamari at home? GREG

Wine Pairing

Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino 

Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
Name for me something that is under-appreciated, relatively unknown, offers amazing quality … and comes in a bottle. You were going to say something about your singing when you’re belting out show tunes in the car, until you read that last bit, right? But I said “bottle,” so clearly I’m talking about the wines of Campania, Italy. […]
Grant Henry

Price $25

Pairs well with buffalo mozzarella, shrimp scampi, cioppino, fish, spicy dishes, herbs, salads and vegetables.

Calamari Basics

Shopping: Choose calamari that has firm, shiny white bodies and smells pleasantly of the sea. Smaller squid tends to be more tender. If your recipe calls for squid ink, it’s sold separately.

Storing: Keep fresh calamari sealed in a plastic bag and submerged in a bowl of ice water that is kept in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.

Prep: Most calamari is sold pre-cleaned. All you need to do is rinse it in cool water and dry well before cooking. If it’s not pre-cleaned, here’s a great calamari tutorial from Williams-Sonoma.

Tenderizing: It’s always best to do a little light pounding of calamari bodies even if the recipe fails to mention this. Some recipes also call for soaking them in lemon juice or scoring them lightly on one side to prevent curling. But I find 6 or 7 light taps with a wooden mallet sufficient for most preparations.

Cooking: In general it’s easiest to cook calamari quickly over medium-high heat – no more than 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on size. However, very low heat also produces exceptionally tender results after about 30 to 40 minutes of cooking (typically in liquid).

Colli di Lapio Fiano di AvellinoRaw CalamariHow to Cook Calamari (Amalfi Style)

Slow-Cooked Calamari with Tomatoes and Basil (All’acqua Pazza) 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Published

The slow-cooked calamari portion can be made ahead of time and gently reheated before serving.

Slow-Cooked Calamari with Tomatoes and Basil (All'acqua Pazza)


  • 2 pound calamari (cleaned)
  • 6 tablespoon olive oil (divided, plus more as needed and for drizzling)
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1 small dried red chile (such as chile de árbol crumbled) or a generous pinch of crushed red chile pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (plus more for garnish )
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and halved lengthwise)
  • 4–6 slice rustic bread
  • black pepper (to taste)


Using a kitchen mallet, lightly pound both sides of calamari bodies 6 or 7 times to tenderize, then cut crosswise into 3/4‑inch rings. (Leave tentacles whole, or halve if quite large.)

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a lid set over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in minced garlic, salt, and crumbled dried chile. Add calamari pieces and cook until nearly opaque, about 1 minute.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add wine and clam juice. Once the mixture begins to boil pour in tomatoes with their juices. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and add chopped basil and orange zest. Continue to cook until the calamari is very tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the bread slices.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet. Rub both sides of bread with halved garlic cloves. Add clove halves to oil, and cook 2 minutes. Fry the bread slices, flipping once, until golden and crisp, about 1 ½ minutes total. Do not crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary, adding more oil as needed.

Put 1 slice of bread into each serving bowl, and top with calamari and sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with additional basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

How to Cook Calamari